More for Less
Summary: Well-designed and feature-laden 24P camcorder at an astounding price point
Target Users: Videographers
Very few products have had the kind of pre-release frenzy as Panasonicís AG-DVX100 24P DV camcorder. Given the technology involved, it is easy to understand the excitement. After all, the Panasonic AG-DVX100 is the first 24-frames-per-second progressive-scan DV camcorder available for $3,800. (Currently the next 24P camcorder price tag starts at around $60,000 and keeps going).
Because of the demand for the product, Panasonic could lend me an AG-DVX100 for only two weeks, which is probably just as well. During those two weeks I shot over 17 hours of footage using the camera to shoot outdoor scenes, on-location interviews and a theatrical event.
The Look of Love
Video shot with the AG-DVX100 in either of the 24P progressive-scan modes is beautifulónot quite film-like, but definitely different from standard video. Images that normally look somewhat flat get a slight filmic edge that looks like 16 mm film that was transferred to video. The AG-DVX100 can also capture progressive scan at 30 frames per second (30P), which is best suited for applications with a lot of action, such as sporting events.
While the AG-DVX100 can capture video in three different progressive-mode frame rates (30P, 24P and Advanced 24P), it records a DV signal to tape at standard 60I NTSC. To get a pure 24P signal, youíll need to reverse-telecine the DV footage to remove the additional fields added in during the 2:3:3 conversion process. The good news is that you can shoot with the AG-DVX100, but play back the tapes on any DV deck that accepts MiniDV tapes. For example, all of the test footage I shot was transferred to my NLE via a Sony DSR-20 DVCAM deck, which worked without a hitch.
To get truly great video images, your camera system needs to be flexible enough to adjust to varying lighting and shooting conditions. Here the AG-DVX100 comes through like a champ, with a horde of image controls for fine-tuning your picture. In addition to the standard chroma level and phase controls, you also have control over the detail level, color temperature, Master Pedestal, Auto Iris level, Gamma, Skin tone detail, Vertical Detail Frequency and mode of Progressive scan.
All changes made to these settings are saved in six user-preset memories, which you can access by simply turning a knob on the back of the camera. With the standard video mode, these changes are instantaneous. However, I noticed when switching from normal 60I video to a progressive-scan preset that the display took about four seconds to update. Still, having six presets is a great way to deal with different lighting conditions quickly.
In addition to the six lighting setups, you also have three white balance memories (A, B and preset). Setting the white balance is a breeze; just toggle up to the memory you want the white balance results stored in (A or B), select a white object and hit the AWB (auto white balance) button at the front of the camera. Continue to hold down the button, and the black balance is adjusted. When the camera is in preset mode, hitting the AWB button lets you choose between indoor and outdoor lighting.
One sour note: When shooting in any of the three progressive-scan modes, you canít display color bars or adjust the gain control. According to Panasonicís representatives, this is due to the complexity of creating the 24P image, although the company hopes to fix this in future models.
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